PROSPECTIVE INVESTIGATION OF MENTAL HEALTH FOLLOWING SEXUAL ASSAULT

Authors


Correspondence to: Angela Nickerson, School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia. E-mail: anickerson@psy.unsw.edu.au

Abstract

Background

Comorbidity in psychological disorders is common following exposure to a traumatic event. Relatively little is known about the manner in which changes in the symptoms of a given type of psychological disorder in the acute period following a trauma impact changes in symptoms of another disorder. This study investigated the relationship between changes in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety symptoms in the first 12 weeks following sexual assault.

Methods

Participants were 126 women who had been sexually assaulted in the previous 4 weeks.

Results

Lower level mediation analyses revealed that changes in PTSD symptoms had a greater impact on changes in depression and anxiety than vice versa.

Conclusions

The finding highlights the role of PTSD symptoms in influencing subsequent change in other psychological symptoms. These findings are discussed in the context of models detailing the trajectory of psychological disorders following trauma, and clinical implications are considered.

Ancillary